Saturday, September 11, 2010

Breaksea Island Native Title

"  In 1839, the Government Resident at King George Sound expressed apprehension in official circles that illegitimate children of the sealers might claim a birthright over the offshore islands."

So, in the 1800's the colonial authorities were already worried about Native Title. Some descendants of the sealers and Tasmanian Aboriginal women live in Albany even now.

* Encyclopaedia of Western Australian History, p. 799.


  1. Does anyone have some thoughts on this? I thought the subject would make a good history paper or journal article.

  2. Typical...nothing's changed.

    I think it would make an excellent article. There are such obvious links to the present and it would be good to get this discussion on the agenda in a more wholistic framework ie REALLY tackling the belief systems that seem to justify this type of behaviour.

  3. Yes, it's an interesting direction to go in. Bit of a can of worms - as you have gathered, from your comment!

  4. It would be interesting to hear from descendents of the sealers, mostly to see what their take on it all is. The idea of actually laying claim to Breaksea Island as a birthright is daunting, I would have thought. First, to feel you have a moral right to do so and then to face up to inevitable counter claims and all that would bring. In the end, if the claim was won and someone actually got to own the island, what would they do with it? Is it worth going through so much just to test the waters, so to speak?

  5. Yes, you are right Ciaran, it is a daunting idea, let alone reality. I thought to write a paper more about the historical situation around this expression of apprehension and to research precedents in Australia when it came to island people.
    Preparing a bit of ground so to speak. The rest is up to the Old People really.
    Happening across that statement sparked a whole new train of thought for me.
    It's just the flamboyance in me that gave the post that title. Can't help myself.

  6. I'm doing my best at present to try and put some distance between my responses to documents of that era. I think its because I watched The History Boys for the first time late on Friday night. One of the characters, Rudge, gets into Cambridge by lieing and because he's good at sport. His take on history is that it is,'just one fucking thing after another'. Because he was the only dissenter in the group the effect was quite powerful and it made me think about all the Rottnest records I've been trawling through of late trying to find evidence of our friend Wily. I was enthralled by the entries and their various commentaries and found myself saying 'gosh' out loud repeatedly, until I real ised that if I were to read the records of today's interred it would be very much the same thing, just tailored to the era. The point I guess I'm trying to make is that I think I'm less surprised to find the 1839 Govt Resident (Grey?)apprehensive about potential land claims than I am about looking at such statements now and being struck by their logic. It makes me think how precious history can seem and how institutionalised 'heel-dragging' actually is..